SD – Hello everyone! This is Steve at Revisit Healthcare and I’m on the phone today with Dr. Corrie Marinaro. How are you today Dr. Corrie?
DC – Doing well, Steve. Thank you. How are you doing?
SD – I’m doing great. Dr. Corrie is a naturopathic doctor in Waterville, Maine. We’re having a conversation with her today on hormone balancing. I’m so excited about it because I always learn so much from these talks. It’s so great to have you join us today. Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom with us.
DC – I’m happy to, thank you.
SD – In doing a little research about hormones, I realize how little I know about my own body. Looking into it I found that hormone therapy and hormone drugs are some of the highest selling prescription drugs in the U.S. right now.
DC – Oh definitely. I’d say so.
SD – That must tell us that there are a lot of people who have different disorders related to hormone balancing.
DC – When I talk to my patients about hormone health, hormone balancing and the need for it, I often talk to them about the body’s evolution in contrast to cultural evolution. It’s only in the last 200 or so years that human beings have started to be exposed to many of the stressors of the industrial world. Also, we are living past 45 or 50 years old. Women’s reproductive hormones run out on them right around 50 years old and they are now living up to and beyond 85. So we are living up to half of our lives without the hormones that our bodies expect. Our bodies haven’t evolved to the point where it’s expecting to live beyond 50 years yet.
Andropause is the equivalent of menopause, but for men. This is where men, typically over 45 – 50, start to feel fatigued and start to feel they‘re not capable of doing what they used to. They have sexual dysfunction and start to not sleep well. Testosterone is typically prescribed for that hormonal imbalance.
People sometimes question the need for treatment of menopause or andropause, but look at the stressors of modern day life that occurred with the industrial age. We all of a sudden have electricity. Before we had electricity we weren’t able to stay up all night and we weren’t able to be attached to computers all the time. We also didn’t have as many financial worries. We just didn’t have quite as many stressors upon us. When we talk about stress of the modern industrial age, we really get into the adrenal glands system.
The adrenal glands are responsible for producing stress hormones. Our stress hormone system is being taxed beyond what it was meant to be. There are several ways of assessing hormone deficiencies for men and women. From my perspective, hormone balancing is very important for both going through menopause and andropause, as well as people under a tremendous amount of stress. Adrenal fatigue is what we call it. This is how I explain it:
Our bodies and minds are being subjected to things that weren’t planned for. They haven’t really caught up to the rapid rate of the cultural changes. That gives you a clue as to why these pharmaceutical prescriptions are in especially high demand. Testosterone is one of the most frequently prescribed controlling substances because of the andropause phenomenon. Again this is about adrenal hormones, not to even touch upon the thyroid hormones which are an entirely separate subject. In my practice I do a lot of assessing of these different hormone systems and try to figure out where the primary imbalance is and try to treat that first. And when we figure that out we find that fixing the primary imbalance can bring the rest of the hormone systems into line.
SD – That is really interesting. Did you start seeing lots of people at your practice with these kinds of problems? How did you come to really focus on these issues?
DC – The longer that I practice, the more I realize that the fundamental cause of illness is stress. It’s very difficult to address any chronic or acute disease without first taking into account that mind/body connection. With stress, you really need to take into account what the adrenal glands are doing. All of us have some sort of stressor. Some people are, through conditioning or genetics, better able to tolerate and cope with stress than others. It is all in how you cope with it.
SD – When you say stress, you mean stress caused by a lot of different things? Things such as lack of sleep, poor diet, environmental things?
DC – Absolutely. When I’m talking about stress right now, what I’m primarily talking about is that mismatch between what our body has evolved to do and what it is actually expecting it to do. Things such as staying up all night, trying to meet deadlines, commute as fast as we possibly can to get to our jobs, trying to live away from the community that we are supposed to be a part of. Living in a nuclear family is a very stressful thing without sharing those responsibilities. Being isolated while child rearing is a huge stressor. All of those aspects of an industrial life that our bodies are really not set up to handle.
There is this whole lifestyle component of putting food in our bodies that our bodies have no idea as to what to do with. Things like processed foods and artificial foods are components of physical stressors that our bodies experience. I find that in my patient population, which represents a very broad segment of cultures – men, women, children of all shapes and sizes – the stress component always needs to be considered. This is how I’ve gotten into treating hormones so much. When we talk about the adrenal glands we are primarily talking about when we secrete stress hormones, mainly cortisol, through the day. The thyroid gland is connected to the adrenal glands. When the adrenal glands start to pull too much weight, the thyroid is going to get pulled in with that and burdened down as well. We often find that it is important to treat the two together. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy would be a natural treatment for menopause and andropause.
There is a lot of risk with conventional medicine surrounding these things, testosterone being overprescribed and all of the side effects that go along with testosterone. For menopause, the treatments that are available with conventional medicine are extremely high risk and the pros and the cons don’t really weigh out in terms of products like Premarin®.
SD – That’s one of the things I’m always talking to people about, you have to find a balance. Does the benefit outweigh the risk?
DC – Exactly. That’s a really good example where the benefits do not outweigh the risk as the risks are too large. Women have a very good chance of developing an estrogen positive cancer after any length of treatment with those drugs. So that’s not a therapy that we want to use at all. For some reason it is used in conventional medicine.
SD – And that’s an extremely common one. I’ve known at least two different people who are close to me that are on that type of drug.
DC – From the naturopathic perspective we offer bioidentical hormone replacement therapy which works just as well if not better and doesn’t carry the same risks. In fact they can be used in a cancer protective sort of way for women who have a hormone imbalance that is likely to lead to breast cancer, uterine cancer or ovarian cancer down the road.
SD – I’m already thinking of somebody I need to send this interview to. You definitely answered my question on what got you into hormone balancing and what it comes down to is you are trying to get to the cause of peoples’ problems. And when you do that, you can’t overlook the hormonal systems.
DC – Right. And that is something that in conventional medicine is not really even considered.
SD – They treat the symptoms.
DC – Right, totally different perspective.
SD – That is one of the big differences I hope people will start to understand. You can either get to the cause, or treat the symptoms.
DC – Or you can do both. I do use what we call palliative care. Palliative care is treating the symptoms while the patient is undergoing the treatment, because you do want to make the patient comfortable. The difference is, while you are treating the symptoms, you also are working on those fundamental causes of the disease.
SD – It’s like with conventional medicine you have things that will take care of the symptom but there are often times safer, more natural and less expensive therapies.
DC – Therapies that cooperate much better with the body’s natural intelligence as opposed to suppressing it.
SD – So as far as the hormone imbalance goes, I know that could affect people in all kinds of different ways. What are some of the symptoms people are experiencing that might be a red flag that this could be a hormone issue that they’re dealing with?
DC – Good question. Things like anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, or the inability to relax when your body is being flooded by the stress hormones so you cannot get into a calm state. Conversely, when the adrenal glands are not producing enough stress hormones, people feel like they can’t get out of bed in the morning, they want to nap all day, they sleep really well but don’t wake up feeling refreshed. Then we talk about the adrenal gland and thyroid gland being connected. If the adrenal gland starts to tank, the thyroid will follow that. Symptoms of thyroid issues would be cold body temperature, never feeling like you’re able to generate body heat, dry skin, low metabolism, constipation, wanting to sleep all the time. We also talk about reproductive hormones.
Generally women and men are aware when their aging is starting to catch up to them, so it’s normally associated with aging. Some people sail through menopause or andropause and they don’t need any help with it. Symptoms that it is time to treat something like menopause can be irritability with everyone and everything in their environment, family, coworkers etc. I have seen it come to the point where they actually want to go out and commit homicide. It gets really, really intense for a lot of people. That’s the case where a lot of women who are go0ing through menopause are put on SSRI’s or antidepressants. Are we solving the problem there? No. Might it help a little bit? Yes. But it’s not solving the primary problem. And for women and men that are having a really tough time with the natural withdrawal of the hormones from their body, the bioidentical hormones can be life-changing for them.
SD – And the SSRI issue is one that I dove into a while ago and we could definitely have a whole other conversation about that. Very scary stuff there. So you’ve told us what some of the symptoms are when someone has a hormone imbalance, maybe from their lifestyle, aging and diet. What kind of steps could somebody take if they are experiencing these symptoms? What are things that we can do to live more in accordance with our body’s natural ways and preserve our hormones? Is that possible?
DC – Those lifestyle factors are very important – this cannot be overestimated. We need to reintroduce those things into our lives that make us feel more human. We need to reconnect with some of the things that have been lost in this current society. This goes back to my theory of cultural evolution happening faster than the body can keep up. Thinking along those lines, we want to eat a diet that cooperates with our body. We want to put food into our bodies that our bodies know what to do with. We want to eat foods that we have been eating for the last thousands and thousands of years.
SD – If your grandparents wouldn’t recognize it as food, your body probably won’t either.
DC – Exactly. I keep a copy of Michael Pollen’s Food Rules on my desk for my patients to thumb through and it is things like that – if your grandmother won’t recognize it as food, don’t eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t eat it. If it is a plant, eat it! A whole foods based diet is so important. Something that was made in a laboratory is not meant to be in our bodies. Our bodies won’t know what to do with it. And if we put food into our bodies that is not real food, that’s a stressor to us. It’s a stressor to our body’s system because our body thinks that we are in famine because we are eating food that is not real food. Whole foods based diet – so vastly important.
Then we have being a part of the community. People need to connect with other people. I feel that a lot of depression symptoms are really just loneliness – a lack of meaningful relationships with other people. For my nuclear families, I really encourage them to go and join groups that have similar interests. Develop interests. Develop hobbies. Connect with other people that are like minded. Those sorts of things are so important for our psyche.
SD – And a great way for people to do that, one thing we have done, is community gardening. It’s been fantastic.
DC – That’s spectacular! And if you have kids you can show them where food comes from and you grow your own food! Community gardens, Rotary Club, church, parenting groups, farmers’ markets, local sports leagues – pretty much anywhere you’re going to meet friendly people. I’m a big advocate of all of that.
Spending time outside – we spend all of our time cooped up inside staring at our computers, at least a lot of people do. Our bodies don’t know what we’re doing. That is not normal or what we are supposed to be doing. We need to go outside. We need to get exposed to fresh air. We need to be in nature, connecting with nature. All of those things make us feel more human. They make us understand what context we exist in.
SD – With the American way of life, we undervalue those little things. It doesn’t really seem like much, but I can see in life that I am more stressed at work and goal oriented, not even taking the time to talk to people in the process as I go through my day.
DC – Right. It’s so important be involved with community & nature because really, what are we here for? We’re not here to sit around in offices and make money. We’re here to enjoy life.
SD – So those are definitely some things that I don’t think most people consider when they think about making a lifestyle change. They are thinking, ‘I have to join a health club, I have to go vegan, I have to go raw’
DC – Right. It’s way less complicated. And this is what I hear from all of my patients, ‘I get on the internet and I start looking things up. There is so much information out there and so many different sources.’ My patients will bring in a huge bag of supplements that they are taking, and it is actually so much less complicated then it seems. If you approach lifestyle change with logic, ‘why are we doing this?’, we are doing this because it is what the body is used to. It’s what the body wants.
SD – Those are some great tips. About diet, it’s interesting that birds and all the animals know what to eat and we are so confused about it. Like gluten, for example. This is something that I’ve become more aware of. Does gluten factor into insulin production?
DC – It does. A diet based on carbohydrates, or the standard American diet, also known as SAD, is going to lead to insulin insensitivity. Every time you have a processed carbohydrate, many of which are gluten based, your exocrine system has to produce a lot of insulin to process that blood sugar. The more we eat simple carbohydrates, the more insulin we have to go through and it’s just a matter of ourselves becoming desensitized to the repeated secretion of insulin so it stops working. Gluten is a tricky subject because a lot of people get focused on gluten – which certainly there are a lot of problems – it’s genetically modified, it comes from Monsanto, wheat is higher in gluten content than it ever has been.
SD – This isn’t the same gluten that our ancestors have been eating.
DC – Right. This is a whole new Frankenstein plant. Our bodies don’t really know how to process it, and it becomes one of the more inflammatory foods. Couple that, gluten itself producing inflammation, with the fact that so many of us have troubled digestive tracts. We are eating things our body doesn’t know what to do with and we have stress which causes our digestive tract to slow down and not function as well. This all makes a very messy combination.
What I find with my patients is that many of them are gluten intolerant, and it’s not necessarily about the gluten. It can be, but a lot of that problem lies in the digestive tract. The digestive tract being challenged in general, so the highly challenging foods to digest make it extra difficult. I do test my patients for celiac and gluten sensitivities and if they come up positive for any sensitivity like this, they should avoid that food all together. They should avoid even the good strains of wheat, the ancient ones like spelt. But for people who are just challenged digestively and aren’t making antibodies to wheat, they can often tolerate those older strains of wheat after their gut is healed up. And going gluten free, though it can be difficult at times, doesn’t mean that eating a tub of ‘gluten free’ ice cream is a healthy choice. So rather than going for a still processed, still unhealthy, gluten free diet, we want to switch back to the whole foods diet.
SD – There were just a couple of things I wanted to ask you further on diet, such as the prevalence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. I’ve read some articles lately that said that milk fed babies might be at a higher risk of diabetes than breast fed babies. Does that make sense?
DC – Yes. It is thought that cow milk causes an autoimmune type of reaction in babies, children in general, because usually diabetes doesn’t come on until six – eight years old. Cow milk destroys the islets of Langerhans where insulin is produced in the pancreas. So if those cells are destroyed, there is no insulin production. This typically happens when kids are drinking a lot of milk and that connection has been pretty well established at this point. Yet another reason to avoid cow milk.
SD – Yes. We know children about that age recently diagnosed with diabetes. We were talking about how confusing it is to eat in this country. I think most people should recognize that we get a lot of misinformation from industry, from the corporations that profit. It’s sad that there is a lot of money in sickness and sick/care business as well.
DC – Absolutely. That’s the problem, it’s all based on money. None of it’s based on what’s better for people. Little by little, at the grass roots level, we’re updating people and we’re changing it.
SD – I was listening to an interview with John Robbins the other day and he started out by saying, ‘Well, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.’ And that’s exactly what we have now. See a ray of hope for the future. There’s a huge amount of pressure from corporations that want to produce terrible food for us and keep control.
DC – And that is one of the things that is so beautiful about the development of natural health in this country, it’s solely consumer driven. It’s solely people demanding better explanations and better healthcare products. Better doctors. Better healthcare systems. There’s not a whole lot of money in natural medicine. Once you fix a person, you don’t have them coming back on a regular basis. I have a lot of patients that just like to come in and check in with me, and I love that, but there’s not a lot of profit in my patients being well. We balance that out with the fact that there are a lot of sick people in this country that are medicated to the gills and are still very sick. There is no end to the number of patients that naturopathic doctors can help. There is not enough profit in natural medicine to support large corporations. Natural medicine is not about money, it’s about people.
SD – Thinking about the future, our economy will be fantastic when people shift over to a more natural way of living and natural healthcare. Things will just shift. Things will change. I just want to ask one more specific question, about pine pollen and how it helps the body to produce more testosterone. Supposedly it’s good for both men and women. Is pine pollen something that you recommend for hormone imbalance?
DC – That is not a therapy that I use. I have some good research on it but I haven’t used it yet. The plant based medicine that I use to balance hormones is going to be along the lines of adrenal support herbs such as ginseng. And there is a huge list of herbs that women specifically can use during menopause.
SD – That is really exciting as your patients could grow their own and use it in their tea for example, and just include it in their lifestyle. They’re not having to buy drugs or order $100 worth of supplements online every month.
DC – Yes, sustainable cultivation of your own medicine is really the ideal.
SD – So with the problems with food and medicine in this country, and a lot of people are aware of it, I want to make sure that people have enough information to make healthy decisions for themselves. I want us to see things the way we want them to be in the future instead of seeing them as they are and maybe that can snowball things in a good direction. Dr. Corrie, can you give us a snapshot of your vision of a healthy American culture? What does it look like when we’re living in accordance with nature and her principles of health?
DC – My vision of the healthcare system would be that medicine would be more preventively oriented as opposed to emergency oriented. All of the things we’ve talked about with diet, reducing the stress, connecting with people. For me it really comes down to people being more in touch with being human beings. Cultivating our own food, getting out into nature, teaching our kids sustainable value, not spending so much time driving around in cars or attached to computers and things like that. Living with sustainability in mind. I was just in Houston, Texas visiting my family a couple of weeks ago. I was looking around at Houston, which is this rapidly booming city. There is so much money everywhere, and it’s all based on oil. I was thinking to myself, ‘what is going to happen when the oil runs out?’
What we’re doing right now is not sustainable. It’s going to have to change at some point. I pray and I hope every day that whoever is in charge at the point when change is necessary, they have a vision that is similar to mine. Just living with some sort of sustainability where we’re not spending all of our money on insurance, doctors, and the newest & greatest technology that really doesn’t get us anywhere. Let’s focus on what we’re capable of achieving, and be more focused on living as human beings are meant to live.
SD – That’s great, excellent answer. One of the things I noticed about your answer is that it goes so far beyond just healthcare, it’s almost as though poor healthcare is a symptom of the rest of our culture. Maybe when we incorporate some of the other changes, our healthcare system can move in a better direction as well. Everything is connected. It’s a holistic approach we need to take towards it.
DC – Absolutely.
SD – Great. Well, I hope that our listeners were able to get to know you a little bit and decide to make an appointment with you. Maybe they have some of these issues or know someone who does. You’re not limited to the hormone therapy, that’s just one segment of your work. Thank you so much for taking the time with us today.
DC – Thank you so much Steve. I really appreciate your efforts in connecting natural healthcare practitioners and connecting that in with the CSA’s and all of these healthy food sources. It all does go together in one nice holistic system.
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